August 19, 2022

Rural Issues: Awe, wonder and a meaningful life

It is hot. It is dry. The earth is thirsty, and the forecast holds little promise of relief. Fuel prices are high, and parts and services once readily available are now much more expensive than they were last year or, as is the case more frequently, unavailable entirely.

Political issues have us polarized and the majority somewhere in the middle remains eerily quiet. Common courtesies are less common and basic manners and respect for fellow man is lacking.

Families sitting together in a living room or around a table at home or in a restaurant may be physically present, but everyone is “plugged in” to whatever is happening on the screen of their device. They are wrapped up in Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat, playing Candy Crush or texting instead of talking.

The weight of the world seems heavier than usual these days until something happens to bring back hope and clarity. For me, that something happened at the end of a hot summer day earlier this month.

Let me set the stage: I was blessed with a passel of cousins on my mom’s side of the family. All farm kids, we grew up riding bikes down sand field roads, building forts in the timber, playing softball in the pasture and playing kick the can under the dusk-to-dawn lights in the yard.

We were well mannered and respectful with feral tendencies when left to our own devices. Aunt Evelyn’s piercing whistle, which we could hear at least a mile away, or the honking of a truck horn — a long and two shorts — brought us back from our imaginative play and running or riding to the origin of the alarm call.

I do not see my cousins as often as I would like, so it is a special treat when Tom and his wife, Kelly, come from Colorado to visit in the summertime. This year, their grandson, Carter, joined them.

Although he had spent 12 hours in the truck with only a few stops along the route, the not-quite-7-year-old was excited to see us and to see the cows, calves and chickens and to play with the kittens.

We were just finishing bringing their suitcases in to the house when my cousin burst through the back door and called his grandson’s name.

“I have to show you something!” he said.

My 59-year-old cousin suddenly transformed into the 8-year-old boy I had grown up with when he said to the 9-year-old girl in me, “Carter’s never seen lighting bugs!”

Tom and I, Carter in tow, rushed out to see those familiar beetles with their bioluminescent flashes. We shared memories of summer nights spent catching lightning bugs and putting them in Mason jars with holes in the lids, so we had our own natural night lights.

Despite the overwhelming ugliness in our world today, there is still awe and wonder to be seen and experienced and enjoyed.

I hope you put down that phone or tablet and take a minute or two this evening to let yourself enjoy the dance of the fireflies on a Midwest summer night.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.